Coun­cil backs off hous­ing is­sues

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS DANDO

Porirua City coun­cil­lors last week backed off be­com­ing in­volved in rental hous­ing prob­lems, in­sist­ing it was the Gov­ern­ment’s job.

The coun­cil­lors re­viewed their stance on poor-qual­ity rental hous­ing and as­so­ci­ated health prob­lems at their Te Komiti meet­ing last Thurs­day.

In Porirua, 18 per cent of the 16,881 homes are pri­vate rentals and 13 per cent is so­cial hous­ing.

Te Komiti chair­man Euon Mur­rell said it was too easy to blame coun­cils for sub-stan­dard hous­ing when the Gov­ern­ment should be leg­is­lat­ing and polic­ing it.

Coun­cils tak­ing ac­tion would stretch al­ready tight bud­gets.

Mana MP Kris Faafoi had re­quested the coun­cil draft a bill for him to present to Par­lia­ment, but the coun­cil de­clined, cit­ing the high costs and low like­li­hood of suc­cess.

It also shied away from a by­law, feel­ing it might be open to a le­gal chal­lenge.

‘‘I have been in th­ese homes and was shocked at the dis­grace­ful con­di­tion peo­ple live in, many un­der pri­vate land­lords,’’ Mur­rell said. ‘‘The Gov­ern­ment needs to take con­trol of this or give us bet­ter pow­ers, with­out the huge costs.’’

He said he was ap­palled to dis- cover how high the bar was for a home to be deemed un­safe un­der the Health Act, which coun­cils could use to tackle land­lords.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said a lo­cal bill would have been a ‘‘fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion’’ and a by­law would use 11 coun­cil staff and 3 per cent of rates.

‘‘The best thing we can do is to be the mega­phone for our com­mu­nity on this is­sue, and work with politi­cians. The Gov­ern­ment needs to set the stan­dards.’’

Leggett said he would meet the hous­ing and health min­is­ters to re­quest tougher leg­is­la­tion for rental prop­er­ties.

Faafoi was un­fazed by the coun­cil de­ci­sion.

‘‘There are many av­enues we can go down and I have a Mem­ber’s Bill ready,’’ he said.

‘‘Some­thing needs to change, whether it’s by coun­cil or by us.’’

‘‘I ... was shocked at the dis­grace­ful con­di­tion peo­ple live in, many un­der pri­vate land­lords,’’ Te Komiti chair­man Euon Mur­rell

Liz Kelly is ner­vous about the huge step her or­gan­i­sa­tion has made, but says it is well pre­pared.

The Porirua Whanau Cen­tre an­nounced last week it was be­com­ing a so­cial hous­ing provider, hav­ing bought 13 prop­er­ties in Tawa from a pri­vate land­lord.

Kelly, the cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive, said it was a bold, but nat­u­ral move – the or­gan­i­sa­tion al­ready ran a child­care cen­tre, looked af­ter el­derly, and ran coun­selling, youth and so­cial work pro­grammes from its base in Can­nons Creek.

All the ser­vices could be wrapped around each other, she said.

The Whanau Cen­tre made an un­suc­cess­ful bid to take over the man­age­ment of the Moana Court flats in Ti­tahi Bay from Porirua City Coun­cil some years ago, so the wish to get into hous­ing was not new, Kelly said.

‘‘We know there is a need for more so­cial hous­ing in Porirua, be­cause of the over­crowd­ing is­sues we see ev­ery day,’’ she said.

‘‘This is some­thing we’ve been look­ing at for a while.

‘‘It’s about find­ing a so­lu­tion for a lot of the fam­i­lies we have con­tact with.

‘‘We think this is also a way to re­solve some of the is­sues they’re fac­ing.’’

She felt with hous­ing sorted, those peo­ple would be bet­ter able to find em­ploy­ment.

Most of the 13 prop­er­ties have ten­ants, who have been ad­vised of the change in own­er­ship.

If any be­came va­cant, Whanau Cen­tre clients would get the op­por­tu­nity to move in and there might also be the chance to buy the homes down the track, Kelly said.

The plan was to in­crease the cen­tre’s property port­fo­lio over the next decade, she said, but baby steps were needed right now.

She was con­fi­dent the Whanau Cen­tre be­com­ing a land­lord would ben­e­fit Porirua, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally.

‘‘It’s ex­cit­ing and the tim­ing is right. I’m ner­vous, but we’re not do­ing this willy-nilly – there has been a lot of prepa­ra­tion, back­ground work and de­vel­op­ing ten­ancy man­age­ment.

‘‘It’s not easy and we want to make sure we’re do­ing it right.’’

Liz Kelly

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